TORONTO – Among the many threats that the Seattle Sounders possess, one stands above the rest.
Deep into their preparations for the MLS Cup final on Saturday (4 pm ET | ESPN, UniMás, TSN, TVAS), Toronto FC are wary of a potent Sounders attack that has outscored opponents 7-0 in these Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Of primary concern is one Clint Dempsey, who leads the postseason with three goals through four matches.
Toronto's Greg Vanney calls Dempsey an “X-factor.”
“His ability to sniff out a situation, to technically be able to pull [it] off,” said Vanney, “add that to [playmaker Nicolas] Lodeiro; they've been able to get some minutes together.”
“Clint has been in all the big matches, experienced a lot in his career, has tons of skill and talent to go with it,” said Morrow. “He can hurt you in any moment.”
Added fellow defender Steven Beitashour: “You just look at his career: a star player in this league and others. You have to keep eye out for him from minute 1 to 90, and past that if we go past that. You want to limit his chances for sure.”
That said, Toronto have faced comparable threats throughout these playoffs.
Against the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, it was Sacha Kljestan who occupied a similar spot on the pitch. Against Columbus Crew SC in the Eastern Conference Championship, it was Federico Higuain's turn to seek space between the lines.
Neither was particularly successful against a stifling TFC defense that has conceded two goals through four playoff matches, those being a penalty kick and a long-range, heavily-deflected strike.
“He's a fantastic player. His resume speaks for itself; the way he continues to play speaks for itself. It's another challenge we'll have to deal with as a defense,” said Reds goalkeeper Alex Bono of Dempsey. “We've played against guys who have that role: withdrawn, sit in front of the back line. We've adjusted.
“It's something we'll prepare for and be ready for come the weekend. We'll be ready for anything that he'll throw at us.”
“Everybody knows he's an amazing player,” said Vazquez of Dempsey. “He's a scorer, has a lot of technique, always there between the lines, trying to cheat a little bit to not be defended well. He can go forward with Lodeiro, [Will] Bruin and Victor Rodriguez.”
“We are better,” added Vazquez. “We have to take care more about us than them.”
Said Chris Mavinga: “He may be top scorer, but on my team [there are] good players also: Jozy, Seba. I don't care about Seattle. I just care about our team.”